Soooo…better late than never, right?
Heh. Heh heh.
So, for those who missed Part 1 (Pallies and Warriors), we’re talking about how it feels to play each of the four classes of tanks – not too much about mechanics (especially given that they change constantly and I can barely keep up even when I’m actively playing a class. Two days ago I posted about how Devastate is meh. Now I’m reading that with the changes coming to warriors, it’ll be upgraded again? Like, it might be more important than Revenge or something? I don’t really care overmuch when Blizz nerfs or buffs anything, because they’re not malicious little gremlins out to ruin my game (contrary to popular belief). But man it’s irritating when a buff/nerf completely changes my rotation and I need to relearn everything).
I believe the analogy I was using (poorly) was rhythm.
A small disclaimer before I go into this: on Monday I posted about what are currently my two strongest tank classes in terms of my level of understanding, comfort, and actual character level. The classes I’ll talk about today are my weakest classes in terms of all of the above – I haven’t even gotten them to 80 yet, so I may be missing key abilities, and my understanding of their rhythm is still a work in progress. But then, this was a subjective set of posts to start with, and the information therein remains, as always, pure, unadulterated opinion (and is therefore subject to change).
So! Let’s start with the strongest of my two weakest classes:
Okay, so…story time. Back in BC, this class held the position my Warrior currently holds – that is, my favoured tank (or at least, my favoured character). I levelled my druid and was tanking five mans with her long before my pally hit 80. I didn’t mean for this to happen – it just sort of did. I always mourned my neglected warrior, but by the time I realized what was happening, I was 70, partially geared, and it would have been a waste to try to pick up my warrior and force my guild to re-gear yet another one of my redundant tanks. So bear it was!
So I actually do have a good degree of experience with the bear – or did. So much changed between BC and 3.2 (when I sort of picked the bear back up in a casual kind of way) that I had to go on yet another research binge just to figure out what the Hell I was supposed to be doing.
Did you know that bears don’t need defence anymore?! Do you have any idea what a paradigm shift that was for me? What kind of tank doesn’t need defence?! What is this “AGI” and “Crit” and “Attack Power”? These are DPS stats! This gear list…it’s comprised entirely of ROGUE gear! I fail at rogues! Blizzard, what have you done?!
It is weird. That’s all. Very, very weird. As I’m questing I’m stripping off my lovely, apparently useless because of stat itemization, epics from BC and replacing them with ROGUE GEAR. It’s just…wrong…
Okay, right. Rhythm.
So, ironically given the above, the bear – for all I have honestly enjoyed it, as I have all the tanking class – has a DPS rhythm for me. It’s like a warrior (because in the end a bear is a warrior with less buttons, much like a cat is a rogue with less buttons), but a fury specced one (ha ha! A furry specced one! Get it? …you can kill me if you want). You only have a few buttons to press (I’m being mostly generous. The bear doesn’t really have much of a rotation, and I find that, because there’s less rage-cost-reduction talents available, all of their abilities cost more than the warrior anyway, so even if I had more buttons, I wouldn’t necessarily have the rage to spam them – though that may also be a function of my level), and you really, really, really want them to crit. Bears are right up there with the DPS in comparing crit chance and AP totals. It’s surreal.
Also, the bear’s defensive CDs seem designed to be blown together (they’re not on the GCD. I actually have a macro (appropriately labelled “Oh shit!”) that pops them all at once) – which makes sense. Because your focus is on effective health/absorption (as opposed to avoidance, since Dodge is really the only thing of much use to you), if you’re low on health you can’t rely on the boss not hitting you like some of the other tank classes. It is going to hit you. So hitting your “Oh Shit!” macro and popping everything you have is usually a good idea, because your block/parry/dodge won’t be able to buy you the time the healers need to bring you back up.
The bears, in short, have a very different feel/rhythm than the other classes. You don’t really have a rotation or a priority list – just a to-do list. Make sure mangle’s up and doesn’t come off. Maul when you have the rage. Lacerate (or don’t…couldn’t find a definitive answer on its use) if you want. Swipe if you need AoE or you just like the animation. Faerie Fire because it’s free (and apparently does threat now. WTF?).
It’s an “easy” class to tank with in that your options are limited, and your “rotation” is very simple/straightforward. It’s like…the California of tanks. Do what you want, when you want, and it’ll probably work out. This is perhaps why they feel strangely DPS focussed – because since there’s less “tank”-based strategies/abilities to it compared to other classes, the DPS aspect gives you something to do/watch. You want to crit because it procs half-a-dozen tanking buffs that are actually mostly passive and don’t require anything on your part.
Also, similar to the paladin, but worse because the bear isn’t as steady, I don’t feel I have a lot of things in my toolbox when things go wrong. I’ve got a taunt, I’ve got a challenging shout equivalent (like so much of the druid’s animal form abilities, it has a completely original name: challenging roar), but beyond that your only hope is pure, face-smashing awesomeness (which, ironically, is actually what the bear is about. Smashing things with your face).
I love the concept of the Druid tank, and it is actually enjoyable to play – although it feels like a guilty pleasure I have to keep secret, because in my head it’s not a tank, it’s a DPS that’s totally cheating and has found some kind of exploit that increases threat. But it doesn’t feel like a dedicated tank to me, most likely just because it’s so different in terms of gear/stats from the classes I’m used to playing. I can’t get over not needing to cry myself to sleep over how to get my DEF cap to stay at 540 without going over or under. The fact that I want this should tell you how crazy I am.
If you’re a DPS who wants to dabble in tanking part time, or maybe just try it out to see if you like it, the Bear is an excellent class for that. It’ll let you maintain aggro, but still feel like you’re DPSing. And if you’re looking for a bridge from DPS to tanking, it’ll do that very well too. You can pick up the bear without too much “culture shock” – the gear and stat preferences stay mostly the same as DPS, and it’ll give you time to get into the swing of the logic, positioning, and philosophy of tanking without simultaneously throwing the troublesome mathematics of tanking at you. You can worry about that later, once you’ve figured out how to establish threat, maintain aggro, and yell at the DPS because oh my God they’re standing in front again.
The bear-Druid is an I Am Awesome class. It can do it all – tank, DPS, face-smash – and it does it well, with minimum stress on you as a player, and a very gentle learning curve. Like all tank classes, there’s a difference between a newbie bear, and a master bear, but it’s a much gentler slope between the two (though, evidently, no less work).
The Death Knight
Right. *Cough* So… *awkward shuffle* I suppose I should be clear right off the bat here:
I suck at the DK.
There, I said it!
I do tank with my DK on a semi-regular basis. I don’t lose aggro unless I’m really not paying attention or a pull has gone badly. I have a toolbox full of an almost confusing array of abilities designed to prevent every fuck up known to man. My defensive CDs are the equivalent of phenomenal cosmic powers…
And for some reason I can’t string it all together. I hit the anti-fear CD when I want the armour one. I can never seem to get Death and Decay off cooldown, or have enough runes for it. I’m too slow on Pestilence, and too fast on Blood Boil.
Mercifully, no one has really noticed. The group I tank for with my DK is very laid back and easy going, and like I said, I don’t actually lose aggro, despite my all-encompassing suck. But I can’t escape the knowledge that I am failing at playing this class to the max of what it can do. I’m wasting CDs, I spend too much time doing nothing because I have no runic power, and all my runes are on CD, and I don’t know how it happened (or rather I do. I fucked up my rotation. But I don’t actually, fully understand my rotation – or more specifically, how to deviate from it without fucking it all up). No matter where I put the anti-fear CD, I will ALWAYS click it instead of the armour one (why?! It doesn’t even remotely look like a defensive CD).
I refuse to acknowledge defeat. My goal when Wrath came out was to master the DK because I’d done pretty well on all the other ones. I wanted one of each tank, and I wanted to be good with them.
But the DK continues to thwart and mock me mercilessly (yeah, well, you’re stupid, DK. And ugly. And you smell bad).
And the reason I suck is specifically because I can’t find the DK’s rhythm. I’m trying to dance but he and I are hearing different songs. I can see, logically how it works. I can tell you how it all fits together. I can guess at what the rhythm must be like. The DK is a strange combination of the pally and the warrior (my two favourite classes, FFS! How am I failing this?!). It’s got the pally’s rotation based, steady AoE threat, on top of excellent single-target threat and some burst, like the warrior. The rune system is an intriguing twist on the typical CDs, and runic power is like the fucked-up love child of rage and mana.
The DK is a class made up of choices – if I choose this ability, I won’t have the runes for that one. If I pop this over here, I won’t have enough RP left over for a Frost Strike. Do I want to focus on a single-target rotation, or an AoE one? Killing Blow and Rime have both procc’ed – do I blow Killing Blow on a frost strike before the Howling Blast to up my threat on this target, or blow them both on Howling Blast to up my threat on everyone?
My CDs are all unique, without repetition. They’re actually encounter specific, not generic versions of give-me-more-health. There’s a lot of procs, and no few of them are active, requiring me to react and push a button, changing my strategy or my rotation mid-stride. Each and every spec is capable of tanking, with a different style/feel/rotation for each.
This is awesome. This class is made of win. It’s everything I ever wanted in a tank, all rolled into one. It’s everything I love about the others – the warrior’s complexity, the pally’s reliability, the bear’s fun-loving deeps-centered awesomeness – all rolled up into a single, thematically appropriate class with unique hair and skin colours!
Why – why – can’t I pull it together?!
The one area of the DK that I have down pat – where he and I are in perfect agreement – is that we’re both fucking angsty about being a DK, and all that’s inherent in that.
All four tanking classes are equally viable, equally useful, and equally fun – though not necessarily for everyone. Each has it’s own unique feel and rhythm, and if you really want to tank, it’s important to find one that you enjoy. ‘Cause I’m telling you right now, there are lot of aspects of tanking in general that suck. If you’re not enjoying your class, you’re going to be miserable.
I would personally encourage everyone to try all of them. You never know which of them will click for you (I figured warrior wasn’t for me until I tried it, and I’ve never looked back), and which won’t (from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee, DK). And each class has it’s own lessons to teach that apply across the board, and can actually improve your skill with the other classes.
For all I bitch about it, and all I fantasize about quitting, tanking is, in fact, a worthy endeavour, and can, with the right group, be amazingly fun. And it’s a role with a lot of options, and a lot of variation.
It’s like Country music. Almost universally despised, but everyone has at least one country song they like (whether they admit it or not). There’s a tank class out there for you, whoever you are, whatever your home-role.
You just have to find the right rhythm!